THE UNKNOWN KNOWNS
Publisher: US Scribner UK Cape
Publication Date: 01/03/2009
Translation Rights Only
All rights available
About the book:Jim Rath's wife has grown tired of his hobbies: his immaculately maintained comics collection, his creepy underwater experiments, and his dreams of building a museum based on the Aquatic Ape theory of human evolution. On the night that she leaves him, Jim thinks he has spotted an emissary from a lost aquatic race called the Nautikons. He is wrong.
In truth the man is Les Diaz, a low-level agent of the Department of Homeland Security. Les has been mentally unstable since his wife's drowning. The department has relegated him to him a harmless and under-funded project, inspecting hotel swimming pools and water slides for terrorist vulnerabilities. When he realizes that he's being tailed by Jim Rath, his intelligence instincts are awakened. Agent Diaz feels certain that Jim Rath is a domestic terrorist. He's wrong too.
Part prison memoir, part congressional testimony, and part cheesy feminist sci-fi, THE UNKNOWN KNOWNS is the story of two delusional and quixotic men who stalk one another across the state of Colorado toward a bloody showdown at an aging water park built on the site of a Gold Rush ghost town.
'A wonderful book - smart, tight, and funny - Confederacy of Dunces meets Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin. I loved it.'
'This is a hyperintelligent, surrealistic tale with a wackiness factor worthy of Kilgore Trout.'
'The Unknown Knowns, Jeffrey Rotter’s debut novel, pokes serious fun at the paranoia that has stalked America since 9/11 with a story about a man who is obsessed with an imaginary race of early aquatic apes (and the all too real G-man on his tail), whose delusions catch up with him at a run-down water park.'
'Rotter's perceptive and humorous story goes beyond the obvious sendup to explore the private and at times desperate ways his characters strive to secure their own homeland... Rotter's imagination is formidable and fresh, well worth the voyage.'
The New York Times Book Review
'Absurdly hilarious in a Charlie Kaufmanesque kind of way. So smart about paranoia, so freshly observed, I feared the era of Rumsfeld had returned.'
Gary Shteyngart, author of ABSURDISTAN and RUSSIAN DEBUTANTES HANDBOOK
'Donald Rumsfeld skulks within the pages of Jeffrey Rotter's debut novel. It's not just the title. Through his tale of two deluded Americans, Jim Rath and Agent Les Diaz, Rotter takes a surreal swipe at the Bush administration and its dubious anti-terror tactics... Both men are ridiculous, and the consequences of their entanglement are brilliantly comic thanks to Rotter's keen eye for the absurd (which has also earned him every kind of comparison – Kaufmanesque, Vonnegutesque, Pynchonesque). Rotter has a startlingly original turn of phrase, especially in the mouth of the eccentric Rath.'
The New Statesman (UK)
'There are shades of Tom Sharpe in THE UNKNOWN KNOWNS - the same sense of dysfunctional characters building up to a grand climax of mayhem and harm - but there's also a strong central core of satire running through the book that is central to its success; there are also echoes of the classic American comedy novel 'A Confederacy of Dunces', by John Kennedy Toole, in the existence of the utterly self-deluding central characters. THE UNKNOWN KNOWNS sets out to make a point about America, and it succeeds admirably - but it also succeeds as a comedy drowning in pathos (pun intended). Recommended.'
'What's funniest... is how much genuine truth underlies the absurdity of Rath's predicament and how much naked humanity Rotter manages to wedge between his constant barrage of punch lines.'
The Columbia Free-Times
'This debut novel by a graduate of New York's Hunter College takes its title from Donald Rumsfeld's famously bamboozling quote. Jeffrey Rotter may have given himself a high watermark of unintentional satire to live up to, but he fortunately produces a killer of an opening line: 'The obvious way to describe water is with adjectives'. Obsessive, eccentric and comic book geek Jim Rath infuriates his wife with underwater experiments and a bizarre desire to build a museum to the evolutionary Aquatic Ape theory. His path crosses with Les Diaz, a Department of Homeland Security agent whose job is to inspect pools and water parks for their susceptibility to attacks. Rath thinks Diaz is a long-lost merman. Diaz thinks Rath is a terrorist. THE UNKNOWN KNOWNS is based around a frankly unlikely concept, but it's in Rotter's expertly worked, dryly satirical, often tenderly emotive prose that the book finds its strength.'
The List (UK)
'A comic novel of paranoia, misdirection and suicide. An offbeat and Pynchonesque debut, with some genuinely funny moments - and some freakishly aberrant ones.'
'[A] riotous yet highly controlled first novel... Over the course of THE UNKNOWN KNOWNS, Jim does his best to explain why he's under house arrest - on his rich gay uncle's houseboat - and at risk of extraordinary rendition. Let's just say that his case involves a pricey Saudi wristwatch, a motel with a mini water park and a radical case of erroneous identity... Rotter [has] imaginative verve and eye for absurdity - personal, literary and political.
'First-time novelist Jeffrey Rotter nails both the lingo of bureaucratic self-justification and the fantasy-inflected imagery of psychosexual arrested development in which our public discourse is so thoroughly marinated, offering a satiric funhouse mirror image of modern American reality.'
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